WYPR Mayoral Interviews: Jack Young
Incumbent Mayor Jack Young represented a Northeast Baltimore District on the City Council for 14 years before becoming City Council president in 2010.
He became mayor in May 2019 after Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned in the fall-out from the 'Healthy Holly' scandal. He placed last in the most recent WYPR, Baltimore Sun, University of Baltimore poll with only 5%.
Speaking with Midday host Tom Hall in May, Young emphasized his ability to collaborate with partners to produce results.
“That's what I've done my whole career is work in partnership and trying to get a win-win out of everything that I've done since I’ve been on city council and as mayor, and I’ve been able to do that.”
Excerpts from the interview
There are 40 or so fewer non-fatal shootings at this time than there were last year. But the number of homicides is about the same. People point to that kind of data and say whatever you've been trying hasn't been working. How do you respond?
Mary Miller seems to think that my crime plan is working. She is all the time talking about working with Commissioner Harrison and I do think that the crime plan is working because crime is going down in just about every category with the exception of murders and we're working on that too because our clearance rate at one time was in the low 20s and it’s up in the high 50s now. We are actually getting people who have been committing murders in the city of Baltimore.
As we continue to build up our Community Intelligence Center that I'm working on, where we have one on eastern and western and we are expanding it into other districts. We will have a prosecutor, we’ll have a community advocate and we’ll have a data analyst working along with a sergeant and a couple officers to get real time data on how we’re going to really make a difference in driving down crime in the city of Baltimore.
I know early on I made some mistakes that people misinterpreted. I have relatives in my own family that have been murdered in the city of Baltimore and I do care about that and as a CEO, I know I'm responsible for driving down crime in the city. But we also need our community’s help to identify those who continue to, even during COVID, to go out and shoot and kill people in the city. So, we're doing everything within our power to try to drive down crime in Baltimore and working with our federal and state partners. We have taken down some major crime organizations and we’re going to continue to do that as we drive down crime.
I know people talk about new leadership, it is new leadership in the Mayor's Office. It’s an office that I never had before. And I have made a difference by partnering with our nearby jurisdictions so that we all can work together because crime sees no borders and that's why I was endorsed by Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski because we all know that we have to work together and develop a regional approach to crime.
Mary Miller credited Commissioner Harrison and his crime plan but that’s my crime plan and he’s instituting that under my leadership. I know that I'm on the right track because every piece of [campaign] literature that has come to my house, it talks about the things that I'm already doing.
Listener question: What is the plan to address the COVID-19 crisis in the homeless population, and what's going on at the Mayor's Office of Human Services?
We're doing a whole lot to put our homeless population into a stable environment. We have several hotels where we have put up most of our homeless people and we’re also making sure that we’re getting those who are still in some of our homeless shelters, practicing social distancing. We are in contact with other hotels to try to put our homeless people up in those hotels as well.
We have a contract with another professional that knows how to run the Office of Homeless Services while Ms. Jerrianne [Anthony] is on leave.I can't talk about personnel matters because those things are confidential but I can truthfully tell you that we’re not going to miss a beat on making sure that our homeless population gets the services that they need.
We’re trying to make sure that we have the right people in place to make sure that our homeless population is being taken care of. They could be some of our own family members. I might have family members that’s out there homeless that I have no idea about. We’re going to roll out pretty soon how much money we're spending around homelessness because people have no idea of all the things that we're trying to do.
Then you have some that are in these encampments that don't want to come into shelters or go into hotels or those kinds of places because they want to do what they want to do and you can't do those kinds of things when you’re in these types of environments. I care about every citizen in the city of Baltimore and I'm going to do everything within my power while I'm in this seat to make sure that we take care of everybody in Baltimore that needs services.
You recently revised the fiscal 2021 budget that you proposed to the Board of Estimates based on what's going on with the coronavirus. Walk us through the kinds of tough decisions that you needed to make about what services are going to be affected.
Hopefully we're working with our federal delegation, our state and our governor pushing the federal government to allow cities to be able to have discretion in how we use the funds. This is a smart and responsible budget. We’re keeping all the essential services that the citizens depend on every day.
There's some tough choices that we have to make in terms of realigning what we do in terms of working smarter and trying to make sure that we have no layoffs. That's my main concern is no layoffs. We presented to the unions three options. One option is no layoffs but holding back raises for next fiscal year until we're able to realize some sense of normalcy where we can recapture some of the lost revenue.
Baltimore City depends on our tourism and people coming here staying in hotel rooms, the hotel tax, going to various attractions, going to restaurants. We have to make sure that we keep this city moving forward. We’re protecting our schools in this budget, we’re protecting our public safety workers and I’ve revived City Stat so that we can take a realistic and holistic approach.
These are things that are important to people, to fill over 50,000 potholes, modernizing our city computer system after the ransom[ware] hack and reviving Pimlico--those are the things that I have done so far and those things help us save money. These are things that I'm trying to protect within this budget. I know it's not a budget that everybody's going to be happy with, but I think it’s a smart and realistic budget to keep Baltimore essential services being provided to our residents.
You introduced a new program called I Care Baltimore. It was done in conjunction with federal and state officials. How does it differ from other violence reduction plans that have been tried by your administration and others?
It’s a plan to include all stakeholders and it’s also going to include our community partners because we cannot do this all alone. We need everybody, all hands on deck, to make sure that we are able to reduce crime in the city of Baltimore. The federal government has been great partners with us in terms of resources that they are trying to bring to the table.
We are still pushing the governor to give us the money that he promised us to reduce crime in Baltimore. So we’re doing a lot and I'm happy that the federal, state and our local partners are together because we do care about everybody and we want to reduce crime by offering other alternatives and other opportunities for people to get out of the gangs and for people to stop the violent crime in Baltimore. And it's not just violent crime in Baltimore, this is all over in major cities across the country. But I'm responsible for Baltimore and that's why I'm reaching out to all of our federal partners, state and local partners to come to the table along with our community groups to do just what we need to do in Baltimore.
Listener question: What is the status of the Port Covington bond issue and how does that affect the budget?
I supported that project because the six communities that surround [it] wanted that project to take place because of the economics that it’s going to bring to their community. And right now they have job training programs that's going on over there despite the fact that the coronavirus has slowed down a lot of things.
Most of the money that they’re getting is TIF (tax increment financing) infrastructure type of money that really is a responsibility of the city because we have to make sure that there's water flowing into things. We have to make sure that there’s telephone lines and gas and electric lines so that a project could really stand up.
This project is going to produce thousands of jobs. We had the BUILD coalition at the table, we had some of the ministers from around the city of Baltimore at the table to make sure that we crafted one of the best pieces of legislation to make sure that we get a good product and that jobs are being created, not just in the construction phase, but even after construction is done.
This project has slowed down because of what's going on with COVID-19 but once this is over and we're able to reopen the city of Baltimore, I'm quite sure that project will be jump-started and we'll get the fruits of our labor. I think it’s going to be a wonderful project and I'm looking forward to when it’s completed to come back and just give them a bow for the things that they have done.
Are you confident that the problems--and they've been voluminous in the Department of Public Works--have been addressed? And where do we stand on the appointment of a new director of the Department of Public Works?
Right now we have an acting director of the Department of Public Works that is doing a great job. I feel confident that the water bills that will be coming out will be accurate water bills. We had auditors go and look at our system and with anything you’re going to have some kinks so would it be 100%? I wouldn't say 100%, but I can tell you that most of the bills that will be going out probably will be as accurate as possible. If anybody has any problems with their bills, we have our customer service reps ready to take those calls.
Because people are being laid off, if they can show that they have applied for unemployment or have been laid off, we are going to help them with their water bills. Plus the H20 [program] is still up and they don't have to reapply, it’s automatically rolled over. Those who need to apply can apply. So there is always a safety net for people.
The transcript of this interview was condensed for the web. Listen to the entire conversation below.
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